“The Death of Death” doesn’t sound very promising to me. Even the repetitive words seem somewhat confusing. I concur that it might be a little unclear. So I’ll unpack the statement for us in hopes that we can see it more clearly.
The first “Death” means an end to something. It means that something once lived, but now it is gone. This “Death” is a finality; buried in some nondescript place; lost to the current or present reality. It speaks to a life once held, but now has passed and its memory is all that remains. The second “Death” means a sacrifice. This word indicates the dying to self, the flesh, or surrendering something of value. It means the forfeiture of something valuable.
Putting the words together reveals a time when people gave out of their want; not out of their plenty. It means that believers once gave God an offering that cost them something which they could not replenish. The Death of Death is the conclusion of selflessness and personal, willing abandonment. Real sacrifice has fallen on hard times. It has even disappeared in many churches.
Consider the last book of the Old Testament. The people no longer offered God something of value. Instead, they brought their least to the altar. Malachi 1:8 When you bring blind animals for sacrifice, is that not wrong? When you sacrifice crippled or diseased animals, is that not wrong? Try offering them to your governor! Would he be pleased with you? Would he accept you?” says the LORD Almighty.
As it was then, so it is now…. We give our energy to our jobs and activities, maybe even to entertainment. We would never think about skipping out of work on a regular basis. I’ve seen people more excited about their favorite sports team than they are about morning worship. God said, “You no longer make a real sacrifice.” It was the Death of Death. No more offerings of value. No more forgoing or renunciation.
This is where the American church is right now. We love to feel God and see His power. Many are intoxicated with the sound of their own tweet or posting about their opinions of Him or of their church. Some even like to hear themselves pray and sing. However, few are willing to offer themselves as a living sacrifice. It’s painful to lay yourself down on an altar and give up image and personal ambitions. People are saving themselves and their possessions while the Kingdom searches for laborers, disciple-makers, and an offering. I feel the Spirit calling us to a life of self-denial. God is looking for a people who will give the best of their life, energies, and talents to Him. Our best is the only thing acceptable to a Savior Who gave His all for us.
Pastor Jeffrey Harpole
It happened in a house where Jesus stood to teach. The crowd had become so great that there was no room left to enter as the people spilled out beyond the door. Perhaps the four men carrying their feeble friend showed up too late to get inside. Whatever the case, they were so determined to connect Jesus with their friend that they tore off the roof and lowered him down. It was nothing more than an act of desperation. One single line of scripture describes the issue: Mark 2:4 “And when they could not come nigh unto him for the press…”
It was the press that the woman with the issue of blood trouble encountered. Too many people in too small a place. She was in need, but there was no direct line to Jesus. She had to maneuver her way forward; plot her course just to touch Him. In all, she did not touch His hand or arm…she only reached the hem of His garment. Mark 5 says that she came behind the press to touch Him.
Consider Luke 19:3 And he sought to see Jesus who he was; and could not for the press, because he was little of stature. Zacchaeus had a physical limitation which kept him from Jesus. Once again, the press blocked him from the truth which came from the Master. However, his desire to hear the words of life caused him to climb a tree. Who would do that today? What kind of people tear off roofs and crawl on their knees and climb trees just to find the Lord?
I see a generation who wants Jesus to come to them. They think that He owes them healings, miracles, and direction. To many, the press is not worth the effort. If something comes up, worship is negotiable. If the weekend is taxing, Sunday night service becomes optional. Midweek Bible study is not on the chopping block as sports take precedent.
The “press” has not changed. Busy schedules and the cares of this life all stand in opposition to sitting at the feet of Jesus. The “press” is anything that keeps us from connecting to the Healer. It is everything that blocks our entry to reaching Him and hearing Him. Though some would scoff at the thought; the “press” could even be friends and family; jobs and community endeavors. Good things cloud the Best thing.
To find Jesus; touch Him; hear His words of wisdom, we will have to seek Him. We will have to work through the press which might even require desperation on our part. It might mean that we will have to lose our pride and inhibitions. The question is not whether He can be found. The question is, will the press stop us?
Pastor Jeffrey Harpole
“Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.” Philippian 2: 2-4
Times have not necessarily changed. Technology has increased and innovations have made life easier… maybe. Wars and political conflicts are cyclical. Nations still rise and fall. Churches are established and sometimes crumble. The nature of people is also persistent. While there are many different names and faces, similar attitudes and dispositions prevail.
Consider Paul’s appeal to the church in Philippi. He knew that the devil could not destroy them. He understood that worldliness, though a formidable foe, was not their greatest threat. The damage of the body would always come from within the body. Division in the church, which he called “schisms,” would always be the greatest hinderance. Thus, Paul instructed them to be in one accord and in humility toward each other. He did not want them to simply “look out for themselves.” He taught them to consider the interests of each other.
This conduct, if enacted in its Biblical form, leaves very little room for independence and self-preservation. It makes a demand of strong-willed people to be more considerate of those who might struggle. But as we know, being likeminded is a daunting task, especially among the American church. People want recognition not obscurity. They want to state their case and make their claim, not turn the other cheek. Paul wrote of esteeming others better than yourself. That does not sound good to the individualist. It leaves a bad aftertaste to the person who deems themselves more spiritual and more knowledgeable than those around them.
The battle for unity will always revolve around the deeds of the flesh. Demonic spirits have no power against the Holy Ghost filled saint of God. “Greater is He that is within you than he that is in the world.” Sin is a constant opponent against us. However, “where sin abounds grace doth much more abound.” The battle is over the human spirit and the unity of the body. Now and forever we will fight for unity. If the church ever comes into submission and unity, through humility and lowliness of mind, then we will have exceeding power and revival. The Harvest field may very well be contingent on church that is in one accord, with one mind. It was Paul’s desire and it is mine… it is my joy when we are in unity.
Pastor Jeffrey Harpole
Christmas seems a long way off, but don’t blink. It’s the famed story of the Inn keeper who had no room for Mary and Joseph that led them to a barn, aka, manger. “No room for the Christ-child” has become a seasonal message when in reality it should be the daily subject of a robust economy that features the rat-race. Each hour seems to be pinched. Days run into weeks until a year passes before we pause to consider developing a prayer life or family devotion. There’s just no room left for the Lord to enter our lives outside of the confinements we’ve set on Sunday.
In its conception, pentecostalism was once considered an experience; not a denomination. However, the harried pace of our society demanded that we move the experience indoors so not to interrupt our own very busy lifestyles. The result was “no room” in the Inn. The Inn is clearly painted as our personal ambition. The Christ-child is the Born Again experience that once dominated our conversation.
The early church was not a “faith” as it is defined today. It was a movement that could not be contained by politics, or governments, or even church buildings. Denominations, on the other hand, put boundaries around the experience so that we could manage Him by convenience. Church buildings became the place where we could find God without ever really seeking for Him. Our “experience” became regulated via time frames of the worship services and by organizational rules. The problem is that we lost the power and the sound of a mighty rushing wind. Miracles trailed off also as we developed healing revivals and special meetings designed for the sick. These things once followed the daily lives of the early church. There were no specialists brought in for a miracle service. Sure, we have great programs, but the outpouring of the Holy Ghost is rarely experienced in our homes. Private lives have somehow separated us from the Glory of God.
I submit that we need to return to an in-home revival where prayer, Bible reading, meditation, and devotions occur on a regular basis. Of course, it means that we will have to turn off all the media for a moment. If not, then we will be current on world affairs and have our fill of entertainment, but there will be no moving of the Spirit.
Jesus doesn’t have much room to be Himself outside of our planned song set. Fortunately though, Christmas is coming and we get to talk about Mary and Joseph and that awful Inn keeper who turned them away.
Pastor Jeffrey Harpole
Of the constants in this life, there is a Crossroad that all of us will face. The determination of who we are and what we will become hinges on our decision to follow Jesus Christ. The rich young ruler came to it when Jesus told him to sell all that he had and take up his cross and follow Him. The ruler left sorrowful because he considered the cost. He had too much to give up. King Saul came to the same junction as he waited impatiently for the prophet to arrive. Saul lost his soul as he turned away from obedience and stepped outside of his assigned role.
A thousand men and women over have faced the Crossroad. The Bible calls it the Valley of Decision. It’s that moment where you either humble yourself under the mighty hand of God or you make excuses for yourself. The Christian that turns away will rarely tell you that they disobeyed. They make allowances for their carnal measures; covering their lack of submission in logical or pseudo-spiritual terms. However, in the end, they have turned aside at the intersection of consequence.
Perhaps you stand at this place where a choice needs to be made. Will you follow the Lord and the anointed leadership God has placed over your life or will you seek your own path? The Children of Israel stood there when 10 spies overruled Joshua and Caleb. It cost them 40 years of wandering. An entire generation had to die before the Promise Land was realized. David was there when the prophet Nathan called him out as “the man” who sinned. Instead of being arrogant and protective, David fell on his face and repented. He was literally at the intersection of eternity as his life was held in the balance. History is replete with these moments.
As you read this small piece, I pray that it is more than a passing thought; some benign commentary on a website. I pray that it provokes you to consider that the direction of our lives are guided by the choices we make in the Valley of Decision. Those choices determine the path of our children and our families. They guide both the present and future of the church, and ultimately our eternity. Offenses are found there and challenges alike. The call of God can be heard there and a host of other things that pull us in different directions. I urge you in the words of God Himself: “Deuteronomy 30:19 “I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life…”
Pastor Jeffrey Harpole